Woods Hole Science Center
Sidescan-Sonar Imagery and Surficial Geologic Interpretations of the Sea Floor in Central Rhode Island Sound
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to interpret the surficial geology of areas along the northeastern coast of the United States. During 2004, the NOAA Ship RUDE conducted Hydrographic Survey H11321 in Rhode Island Sound. This sidescan-sonar and bathymetry survey covers an area of 93 km² located 12 km southeast of Brenton Point, RI in water depths of 28-39 m (fig. 1). The purpose of this report is to delineate sea floor features and sedimentary environments of this area in central Rhode Island Sound using sidescan-sonar and bathymetric data from NOAA Survey H11321 and seismic-reflection data from a previous USGS field study (Needell and others, 1983a).
This is important for the study of benthic habitats and provides a framework for future research.
Prior work in this area includes the mapping of surface sediments and surficial geology. McMaster (1960) collected sediment samples from Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay and mapped our study area as having a sandy sea floor. In addition, one sample of sand from the National Ocean Service (NOS) Hydrographic Database came from a location in the northeast part of our study area in 1939 (fig. 2; Poppe and others, 2003). McMaster and others (1968) used seismic-reflection profiles to map the locations of a cuesta of Cretaceous sediments crossing Rhode Island Sound and post-Cretaceous drainage channels. Knebel and others (1982) identified sedimentary environments in Rhode Island Sound using sidescan sonographs. Needell and others (1983b) studied the Quaternary geology and mapped the structure, sedimentary environments, and geologic hazards in Rhode Island Sound using sidescan-sonar and seismic-reflection data.
Sidescan-sonar and bathymetric data from NOAA Survey H11320, which overlaps the far eastern edge of our study area, was interpreted to consist of basins surrounded by a moraine and bathymetric highs composed of till with areas of rocks, sand waves, hummocks, glaciolacustrine erosional outliers, small scarps and elongate hills (fig. 1; McMullen and others, 2007). Some of those features extend into this study area.